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Recognize the clear link between illicit trade in natural resources and conflict

Thank you very much, President.

Mr President, thank you for convening this important debate, and I also thank our speakers this morning for their ideas. I would like to highlight three considerations.

First, as today’s speakers and previous speakers have emphasized, we recognize the clear link between the illicit trade in natural resources and conflict. From Somalia to Sudan to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the illicit trade in natural resources such as charcoal, timber and gold has helped fund conflict and the activities of armed groups.

And we must bear in mind that increasing global demand for critical minerals – critical to decarbonization and our green growth goals – risks exacerbating illegal sourcing of natural resources without appropriate action.

We therefore need a concerted and coordinated effort to combat illicit trafficking as the root cause of conflict, and in this context, I commend the efforts of the African Union, including conflict prevention, including work of Commissioner Bankole and his department. As a Council, we should also seek ways to strengthen UN Security Council sanctions regimes against individuals and entities that illegally exploit natural resources to finance, prolong or provoke conflict. The Council acted in Somalia by banning the export of charcoal to inhibit Al-Shabaab’s sources of revenue; we can and must do more in other mandates.

Second, Mr. President, we need more regulatory and governance efforts to combat the illicit trafficking of natural resources, including rigorous certification and verification processes.

And in this context, the UK is proud to support a number of international mechanisms that achieve this, including the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Mineral Supply Chains and the Kimberley Process which helps stem the flow of conflict diamonds.

Finally, Mr. President, we share the views of previous speakers on the dangerous consequences of the exploitation of Africa’s natural resources by private military companies.

There are significant independent reports describing the exploitation of gold resources in Sudan and the Central African Republic through Wagner Group subsidiaries such as Meroe Gold. Gold mining and smuggling operations risk undermining local stability, pose significant environmental and human rights risks, and constitute a significant loss for Sudan.

The UK reiterates our concerns about the activities of the Wagner Group in Africa, which undermine effective resource governance and offer no lasting solution to Africa’s security challenges.

In conclusion, Mr. President, I thank you once again for having convened this important debate during Gabon’s presidency of the Security Council.